NEXT DEVELOPMENT:
Trial Continues 

Plaintiffs Continue 
Presentation of
their Case in Chief"

Report Archive:

ˇ July 24, 2000:
Trial Coverage: Day 7
V-P News Lays Claim To
Insanity Defense

ˇ July 24, 2000:
Trial Coverage: Day 6
Second week of trial begins

ˇ July 21, 2000:
Trial Coverage: Day 5
Week one ends with a bang;
Fox seeks mistrial, Judge
says no

ˇ  July 20, 2000:
Trial Coverage: Days 3 and 4 

ˇ July 18, 2000:
Trial Coverage: Day 2


ˇ July 17, 2000:
Trial Coverage: Day 1

ˇ July 14, 2000:
Justice For Sale In Tampa?
Finally at the courthouse,
litigants can't afford to use
the courtroom facilities

ˇ July 12, 2000:
Fox Loses Key Motion; Jury
Is Seated

Plaintiffs do not have to
prove Fox guilty of violating Communications Act

ˇ July 8, 2000:
Potential Landmine Could
Derail Entire Case

ˇ June 30, 2000:
Judge Steinberg Ready To
Get Case Back On Track

ˇ June 26, 2000:
Another Judge Says 'No' to Hearing Wilson/Akre v Fox Case

ˇ June 21, 2000:
Still No Judge To Hear Fox/BGH Case While Foxes Dishes More Distortion To WTVT Tampa Viewers

ˇ June 16, 2000:
Trial Date Pushed Back Again; New Judge To Be Selected

ˇ June 8, 2000:
Fox  Manager Who Fired Akre and Wilson In Tampa Gets Big Promotion 
David Boylan Flies Into The Sunset to Manage KTTV, Los Angeles

ˇ June 6, 2000:
Fox Trial Will Start Sooner Than Expected
It will proceed in the heat of the summer, probably in July

ˇ May 25, 2000:
Fox Trial Will Not Start June 12 as Scheduled

ˇ May 18, 2000:
Fox Still Stalls on Testimony of Its president Mitchell Stern
Pre-trial hearing is otherwise uneventful

ˇ May 8, 2000:
Ralph Nader Testifies About Broadcasters' Public Interest Requirement
Presidential candidate gives testimony at pre-trial depo 

ˇ May 5, 2000:
Court-ordered Mediation Is Brief and Unsuccessful
Trial set to begin June 12

ˇ April 28,2000:
Fox Challenges rBGH Experts At Depositions

Fox lawyers laying ground-
work to tell jurors experts are cancer scaremongers?

ˇ April 26,2000:
Walter Cronkite Testifies on Behalf of Akre & Wilson
Fox lawyers lodge objections

ˇ October 19:
Fox Lawyers Insist On Secrecy At Deposition
French TV Ejected

ˇ October 18:
FDA Wants Comments on G-M Foods
Public Meetings Start in November

ˇ October 13:
Judge Rules: Trial Will Proceed: Defense loses third effort to have case dismissed

ˇ September 24:
MSNBC: Gene-modified foods might get labels:
Industry weighs voluntary steps, U.S. studies options as well

ˇ September 20:
Trial Still Set to Start Soon: Busy Docket Delays foxBGHsuit

ˇ August 4:
MSNBC: Mutable Feast:
Will the fight over gene-altered food products leapfrog across the Atlantic?

ˇ June 30:
Consumers International:
UN Health Group Shuns BGH

ˇ June 1:
New York Times:
Farmers’ Right To Sue Grows - Food Warning Muzzle Likely

ˇ May 10:
Corporate Crime Reporter:
Monsanto Officials Join Leading Consumer, Environmental Groups

ˇ May 3:
Fox Deceives Viewers in Primetime, Too
Net Admits Staging after INSIDE EDITION Report

ˇ April 30:
Democracy Group Award to Akre/Wilson
Fired Reporters Cited for "Courage in Journalism"

ˇ April 29:
New Trial Date is October 11
Fox Piles On Big-Name Lawyers

ˇ April 17:
Clinton Lawyer Joins Fox Legal Team
David Kendall Involvement Confirmed in Letter to Monsanto

ˇ April 16:
Fox Pleads for Another Delay
Later Trial Date to be Set April 29th

ˇ April 1:
Judge Says BGH Case Will Go To Trial
Opening Gavel Falls May 10th

ˇ February 16:
PENTHOUSE Exposes BGH, Fox Coverup:
First-rate story of BGH situation and lawsuit against Fox TV (rated G -- no nudity, just the story)

ˇ January 25:
ENS Summary of BGH Developments

ˇ January 14:
How Fox Wanted to Slant News of Canadian Concerns
Canadian BGH Concerns Were Big Issue In Firing of Fox Reporters

ˇ January 14:
Canada Says NO to BGH!
Read the CBC Story or View-Listen to report with RealPlayer

ˇ January 14:
Health Canada Rejects Bovine Growth Hormone in Canada
Government News Release

ˇ December 16:
Akre & Wilson Win Courage Award
For Work On Story Which Cost Them Their Jobs

ˇ December 15:
ABC NEWS Catches Up on BGH
Read the ABC Story or View-Listen to report with RealPlayer

ˇ November 7:
FOX Legal (8/28) Answers
to Reporters' Complaint Now Available

ˇ November 1:
Monsanto and Fox: Partners in Censorship
PR Watch - Showcase Article

ˇ October 30:
Canadians Probe Coverup Claim
Read CBC Story or View-Listen to report with RealPlayer

ˇ October 24:
Reporters Get Top SPJ Ethics Award

ˇ October 22:
BGH Issue Explodes in Canada:
Read CBC Story or View-Listen to report with RealPlayer

ˇ October 7:
SECRET Canadian Study Leaked...
...BGH safety questions unanswered?

ˇ Sept 13:
Akre-Wilson Depos Start

ˇ Sept 10:
TIMES/St. Petersburg
SP Times covers NutraSweet flap

ˇ Sept 10:
Our Story: Fox Still Protecting Monsanto?

ˇ Sept 8:
Fox Pulls Plug on NutraSweet Foe

ˇ Sept 1:
Reporters Respond To Defense

ˇ READ story FOX-TV refused to air...
or View-Listen to report with RealPlayer

ˇ July 14:
Judge refuses to dismiss
all but one count of reporters' suit

ˇ July 5:
OBSERVER/London
Digger Still Plays Dirty

ˇ July 1:
Depositions Continue, Trial Date Set

ˇ June 7:
TIMES/St. Petersburg
Akre/Wilson Preparing FCC Complaint

ˇ May 26:
Judge rejects Defense motion
for Protective Order

ˇ May 25:
WEEKLY PLANET/Tampa:
Grazing A Stink - - -Don't Have a Cow

ˇ May 23:
NEW YORK TIMES:
(Silenced) Reporters... Post Web Site

ˇ May 21:
Wilson/Akre demand on-air correction

ˇ April 29:
FOX-TV asks court:
Dismiss case and Delay depositions

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FOX STATION MANAGER ADMITS 
  NEWS DISTORTION VIOLATES
   CONTRACT AND FCC RULES

                                                 By JANE AKRE
        TAMPA (July 26, 2000)—Contradicting the cornerstone of his own company’s defense, Fox General Manager David Boylan admitted under oath that a television station jeopardizes its FCC license when it deliberately distorts the news. 
     
   And with a simple “yes,” he also conceded that plaintiffs Jane Akre and Steve Wilson would have breached their Fox 
employment contracts had they done anything which would have jeopardized the station’s ability to operate. 
       
Under cross examination by his own attorney that lasted only a minute-and-a-half, Boylan was never asked if he ordered the reporters to lie or distort the truth on Fox-owned WTVT in Tampa. 

JOHN CHAMBLEE
Akre Attorney Grilled Fox Exec
        The Fox station executive ended a shortened Week II of the trial after testifying all day Wednesday and Thursday until just before noon when court recessed until next Tuesday.
        In what initially looked like another page from the same playbook, Boylan repeatedly testified about how little he knew about the BGH story during the entire seven-month period the dispute raged in the newsroom just a floor below his executive suite at WTVT. 
       Under persistent questioning by Jane Akre’s attorney John Chamblee, the adverse witness claimed he never even read the heavy- handed threats Monsanto’s lawyer sent to Fox News chief Roger Ailes on the eve of the broadcasts that were prepared by Akre and Wilson, her reporting partner and also her husband.

Sticking To The Story 
        As with all elements of the dispute over the story, Boylan stuck with the same line he gave at his pre-trial deposition: “I specifically avoided trying to enter into this, as tempting as it might be, because I am responsible for profit.”  He said he never looked at any research the reporters gathered and claimed, “I can’t recall” whether the reporters pleaded with him to look at proof that their reporting was solid after Fox lawyers wrote the reporters a letter and bitterly attacked them for sloppy journalism.
        He said he never read any of the reporters’ BGH scripts “so I could be separate from the process.”  He also claimed he never knew that Akre and Wilson ultimately turned in two versions of the story exactly as directed by the station’s news VP, nor that his executive in charge of the news never bothered to read either script until forced to do so at a pre-trial deposition more than a year after the two were fired.      

PHILLIP METLIN
Never Read Reporters' Scripts
                News VP Phillip Metlin admitted on the stand a day earlier (Tuesday) that once he did finally get around to reading the final reporters’ version, “it read pretty well to me” and he saw no reason that he could not have aired the
  News and Commentary
               
By STEVE WILSON 

Fox To Judge:
‘THERE  IS  NO  LAW
  AGAINST  LYING
  ON  NEWSCASTS’

  
      It is an issue that has bedeviled the case from the start—and one that may yet derail the plaintiffs before a jury ever gets to deliberate. 
      The defendant has argued almost from the start that they cannot ever lose the case as a matter of law.  Jane Akre and I can never prevail, they have said, simply because there is no “law, rule, or regulation” that says a television station cannot deliberately distort and slant the news.
           It is an argument they’ve run up the flagpole at least twice before in efforts to have the case summarily dismissed without a trial.  Two state court judges studied that argument and failed to salute.  But now the trial court judge—the third to be assigned to the case since it was filed—has indicated he might not see it the same way as his predecessors.
          What this means, the judge has explained out of earshot of the jury, is that after the plaintiffs  finish presenting their case in chief, he might well grant a defendant’s motion for a directed verdict.  End of trial.  Beginning of appeal process.
          What seems apparent is that either Judge Steinberg wasn’t listening carefully to Ralph Nader, or he didn’t believe him.  Nader did a first-rate job explaining how broadcasters who use the public airwaves have a legal duty to serve the public interest.  Deliberately slanting and distorting the news, he explained, violates the law. 
          Specifically, Nader added, the Communications
Act of 1934 requires broadcasters to serve the public interest, to be a good character, and not to broadcast a false signal. 
          Fox wants the judge to believe that prohibitions on news distortion are merely FCC policy and not any formal law, rule, or regulation as specified in the Florida whistleblower law.
          Of course, call it what you like, as Fox’s own station manager admitted on the stand Thursday, lying on the air and distorting the news is a sure way to lose a license to broadcast.  It doesn’t happen frequently but it has happened before—and the FCC has made it clear it can happen again whenever anyone brings evidence that meets the commission’s criteria as stated in a decision involving the CBS News documentary Hunger In America.
          The standards set by the FCC in that case fit the circumstances in this case like a glove.  And haven't we all seen enough real-life courtroom drama to believe that old saw “if it fits, he cannot acquit”—and certainly can't grant a directed verdict that would stop the case in its tracks and take it away from the jury. 

story two months before the journalists were dismissed. 
      
   None of the 83 versions Akre and Wilson wrote and re-wrote was ever acceptable for broadcast, leading to their claim that once Monsanto threatened “dire consequences” if their reports were to air, there was no chance anything would be acceptable to Fox managers and lawyers bent on taking no risks.
        Apparently Boylan’s boss at Fox headquarters was pleased with his commitment to the bottom-line.  In June, Fox Television president Mitchell Stern promoted Boylan to manage the network’s second-biggest station, KTTV Fox 11 in Los Angeles.  Just three years earlier, Boylan was at the helm of the only other television station he’s ever managed—WGHP in High Point, North Carolina— another Fox-owned property. 
        According to testimony,
it was Stern who gave the marching orders on how Fox lawyers and managers should edit the BGH reports, ordering them to “take no risks” with the stories.  Fox lawyer Gregory G. Jones has testified that after those instructions were relayed to him, he used the Monsanto threat letters “as a roadmap” to craft the Akre/Wilson stories.  Many of the claims in those letters were themselves false and misleading, according to other testimony in the case.

BOYLAN & McDANIELS
GM's Testimony Didn't Help
Taking Swipes At Wilson
              Boylan repeatedly took aim at Wilson’s experience and reputation, despite warnings from the judge that reputa- tions—good or bad—are not at issue in this trial.  Boylan also mentioned a four-year-old unproven claim against Wilson, another matter the judge had previously told the witness would not be allowed into
evidence.
        The manager also found several occasions to sneer at Wilson for “coming from a tabloid environment,” referring to Wilson's previous employment at the television newsmagazine Inside Edition.  The four-time Emmy award-winning investigative journalist has a 28-year track record of producing some of the best investigative reports on national television. 
        Boylan admitted he knew nothing about Wilson’s previous work or any of the awards he has won.  State court trial judge Ralph Steinberg derailed that line of questioning, again reminding the parties that reputation is not an element of any claim that Fox violated Florida’s Whistleblower law for firing employees for refusing to go along with orders that would violate any law, rule, or regulation.  


Request For Separation
        In another dramatic admission, Boylan conceded that he signed a “Request For Separation” form, asked the payroll department to compute how much Wilson and Akre would be owed under their contracts for the balance of the year, and sent off a packet to Fox headquarters in New York on April 17.  
       
That decision was just weeks after Monsanto threatened the station and the journalists began resisting efforts to change their scripts in ways that would make them false or misleading—but Boylan insisted he was just trying to make the reporters happy and termination was “only an option.”
        “Every time somebody at the station is unhappy, you prepare a Request For Separation and send it off to the corporate Legal and Personnel departments in New York?” Wilson asked.  “No,” replied Boylan, insisting the packet just “got others into the loop.” 
       
        
“I think there was a discussion in April that we had the right, there was that possibility of (termination for) insubordination but we backed off.  It was not my intention to get you fired," Boylan said.
         Wilson shot back, “The truth is that you didn’t move to fire us for cause because you had no legitimate reason to fire us, did you Mr. Boylan?”  So why did the station really draw up those termination papers, Wilson asked. 
        “This was just a way to inform others what needed to happen, to put them in the loop.  These are our standards and procedures. No decision was made at that time to fire you," Boylan responded.
        Plaintiff’s attorney Chamblee also pointed out to Boylan and the jury that it was just a day before the Request for Separation was prepared that Fox lawyer Carolyn Forrest wrote her so-called “poison pen letter” attacking Wilson and Akre for “unfair treatment (of Monsanto), unbalanced attacks, careless representations, and questionable links to unrelated points or unsubstantiated assertions,”—and then inviting the reporters to resign if they wanted. 
No Specific Complaints?                  Throughout his hours on the stand, Boylan punctuated his message to the seven jurors with occasional smiles.  He told them he was always willing to put the BGH story on the air,  “Did you consider the story itself to be important?”  Chamblee asked him at one point. 
        “Yes, I did," responded Boylan firmly.  But the station manager had to pause when Wilson asked:

DAVID BOYLAN
Happy To Head Back To L.A.
 “what is the proper response when reporters are asked to lie on television?”
        “That’s a tough question, Steve,” Boylan said after thinking it over for a long moment.
        “I’d go to someone with specifics (of your complaints),” Boylan added.  
       
“And isn’t that exactly what we did, Mr. Boylan,” Wilson responded.
        Boylan repeatedly insisted throughout his testimony that neither reporter ever told him—or anyone else on his staff—of any specific ethical concerns about the BGH story.  
       
He claimed the journalists never complained about the uneven editing process until they sent him a letter September 23 saying, “the BGH report you are pressuring us to broadcast remains a largely slanted and distorted picture of what we know to be the truth and, further, that broadcasting it in its present biased and distorted state would be an activity in violation of the law and FCC rules and policy.” 
        Boylan says he didn’t really read that letter either.  He insisted the contents were "vague" when addressed to him by the Plaintiffs that month.
        Questioning the witness himself as a pro se litigant, Wilson then pulled out and showed Boylan and the jury memos written in March, April and June flagging specific ethical concerns about directives from station lawyers. 
        “Does this refresh your recollection that we discussed that (much earlier than September 23)?”
         Boylan answered, "It does not.”
        “Did you know our complaint was about slanting the news, you knew then didn’t you, Mr. Boylan?” 
        “Right," the executive conceded.  

[Editor's Note:  Digital photographs in today's edition of The BGH Bulletin are courtesy of Belle Adler, professor of journalism at Northeastern University in Boston.]

 

Stories Posted Recently:

TRIAL COVERAGE:  INSANITY DEFENSE FOR FOX?

TRIAL COVERAGE:  SECOND WEEK BEGINS

TRIAL COVERAGE:  WEEK ONE ENDS WITH BANG

TRIAL COVERAGE:  DAYS THREE AND FOUR

TRIAL COVERAGE:  DAY TWO

TRIAL COVERAGE:  DAY ONE


JUSTICE FOR SALE AT THE COURTHOUSE?

FOX AIRS ANOTHER DISTORTED STORY ON rBGH

TRIAL DELAYED; NEW JUDGE TO BE CHOSEN

FOX MGR WHO FIRED JOURNOS GETS PROMOTED TO FOX'S SECOND-BIGGEST STATION

TRIAL TO START SOON, LATE JUNE/EARLY JULY

TRIAL DELAYED AGAIN WILL NOT START 6/12

FOX STALLS ON TESTIMONY OF ITS PRESIDENT

RALPH NADER TESTIFIES RE PUBLIC INTEREST

MEDIATION IS BRIEF AND UNSUCCESSFUL

FOX CHALLENGES PLAINTIFFS' rBGH EXPERTS

CRONKITE TESTIFIES FOR AKRE & WILSON 


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